Crisis appears to be brewing at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) between Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman, and Amina Bala Zakari, Director of Health and Welfare, which analysts said may affect the 2019 election.
Sources in the commission said Zakari, who was formerly the Director of Operations, has been embittered since her redeployment by the INEC boss in October.
Following the departure of former INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Zakari became the acting chairman of the commission.
There was public outcry, especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that she should not be made the substantive chairman for fear that she would be biased, given her relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president later appointed Yakubu as INEC chairman in October 2015 and he resumed office on November 9, 2015, taking over from Zakari.
A credible source said Zakari had been at loggerheads with Yakubu over her posting which had “kept her out of the spotlight and has relegated her to the background”.
According to the source, “There is serious tension in INEC, as we speak, between Prof. Yakubu and Amina Zakari.
“In fact, both of them don’t see eyeball to eyeball. Zakari, given her connection to the presidency, is more or less the most influential INEC official but Prof. Yakubu has been trying to assert his authority since assuming office.”
Another source said: “There has been serious pressure on the INEC chairman to reverse the decision and return Zakari to Operations, but he has stood his ground.
“Right now, INEC is polarized into two factions, with one loyal to Prof. Yakubu and the other loyal to Zakari.”
Efforts to reach Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, proved abortive as calls and text messages sent to his phones were not returned.
The PDP has charged the INEC chairman not to succumb to pressure to return Amina Zakari to her position.
In a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, the party stressed the need for the INEC boss to ensure that he remained on the side of the people and take urgent steps to weed the commission of compromised officials.
The party said the case of Zakari constituted another direct integrity test for Yakubu on his capacity, integrity, and readiness for free, fair and credible general election in 2019.
“The PDP cautioned that Nigerians are already aware of the pressure from the Buhari presidency to return Amina Zakari, a blood relation of President Muhammadu Buhari, as Director, Operation, so that they can use her to manipulate the electoral processes and rig the election for President Buhari.
“While the PDP notes the redeployment of Amina Zakari to another directorate, the party nevertheless, reaffirms its position that her continuous stay in the commission constitutes a threat to free, fair and credible 2019 general elections, given her relationship with President Buhari, who is a major contender in the election.
“Amina Zakari’s removal as Director of Operations has been hailed by majority of Nigerians, a fact which shows that voters had already lost confidence in her integrity to hold such a sensitive position, for which they prefer her outright removal from the commission,” the PDP said.